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Sacred Disciplines

Purification Rites and Rituals

The concept of purification, or the ritual cleansing of persons and objects, is found across cultures and religions.  Purification is invariably required before any contact with the sacred and is generally considered necessary after any kind of contact with the demonic forces and black magic, because these contacts are viewed as polluting experiences. 

The removal of pollution

Based on the analogy of cleansing outer dirt or stains by means of bathing or washing in everyday life, purification of man’s inner state of being is almost universally believed to be effected by rituals involving various forms of washing. The polluted individual might be required to swim or bathe in the sea, a river, a pond, or special tank. Bathing in swift-flowing streams is often considered especially effective because the rapidly flowing water not only removes the impurities but carries them away. A polluted person might wash his entire body with water or only certain parts of the body that represent the body or person as a whole—rinsing or cleaning the mouth by other means is common. Water may be poured, sprinkled, thrown, or blown upon a polluted person or object. Simply touching water is a purifying gesture in the Vedas; gazing at it is considered purificatory in Sri Lanka (Ceylon). In the absence of water various kinds of moist substances may be used—clay, mud, wet herbs, or plants. The Qurʾān (the Islāmic sacred scriptures) directs desert dwellers and travellers to rub themselves with high clean soil because of the scarcity of water. In cultures in which saliva is not considered polluting, expectorating or breathing on something may be viewed as purificatory gestures.

Other modes of purification based on the analogy of cleansing outer dirt include:

The use of wind or aeration to blow or carry away the impurities; sweeping a house or certain area of the ground or brushing the polluted person or object, often with a brush made of fibers from a symbolically pure source; scraping the surface of a polluted object or utensil; shaving and cutting the hair and nails; removing clothing and washing it or destroying it; and putting on clean or new clothes.

Objects, activities, or persons commonly considered to have intrinsic purity cross-culturally include: fire; water; sweet smells created by flowers, fragrant plants and herbs, perfumes, fragrant oils, or incense; milk, ghee, and other dairy products; white objects; earth in its natural form; sacred objects (e.g., relics) and sacred personages (e.g., priests); the recitation of spells, incantations, and names of gods; magical amulets and stones; gold and, in one culture or another, silver, bronze, jade, and crystal; virgins; the right as opposed to the left side of things in many cultures (e.g., the Abaluyia of Kenya); morning, sunshine, and daylight as opposed to darkness; whole or perfect objects, including circles and wheels and perfect numbers—e.g., the number nine (because the digits of any of its square products always add up to nine) or four (because quaternity is viewed as perfection); and physically perfect specimens of their species. In addition, cultures idiosyncratically define certain things as pure because of special cultural associations: cow dung and cow urine are pure in Hinduism because of the sacredness of the cow; dogs are considered to be pure in Zoroastrianism (a religion founded in the 6th century bc by the Iranian prophet Zoroaster) because as scavengers they purify the world for everyone else (most cultures view dogs as impure because of their scavenging habits); and all cool things are considered pure among the Lovedu of South Africa because pollution is associated with heat.

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Sacred Disciplines

The 7 Most Exclusive Secret Societies in History By Alex Grecian

Freemasons reportedly have a number of secret handshakes that they employ when meeting fellow travelers. Thumbs are pressed against knuckles or wrists in various permutations depending on the greeters’ position within the society. Members of the Illuminati might be seen declaring their affiliation with hand signals that make them look suspiciously like classic rock fans. The Karstphanomen (the secret society in my new book, The Devil’s Workshop) whisper Latin phrases to one another, conveying their mutual agreement that the “end justifies the means.”

But beyond all the special handshakes and code words, there doesn’t seem to have been much point to most secret societies other than self-interest. Once an invitation was secured, membership in one of these societies guaranteed a person certain considerations: political favors, appointments to influential positions, business and financial opportunities. Some societies with a more religious (or perhaps sacrilegious) bent believed they could gain mystical abilities or accrue occult powers and artifacts.

Secret societies still exist today, but the advent of the Internet has made real secrets much harder to keep. Masons ride in parades and the Karstphanomen now work out in the open with lawyers and public advocates. Only Anonymous, the tech-savvy Internet entity has captured the popular imagination in the same way that secret societies once did. But even they don’t fully follow the tradition of selfishness, since they seem to want to entertain us while dragging others’ secrets out into the open.

Children still make tree houses and ice forts with signs that read “keep out” and “no girls allowed.” Exclusivity abounds. Secret societies may be a relic of a bygone time, but they still have the power to intrigue us. These lucky seven are thought by some to have some vestige of influence even now...

The Freemasons are the longest-lasting secret society (that the general population is aware of) still in existence. They’ve become synonymous with secret handshakes, bizarre rituals and a hierarchy in which members move up through various levels as they gain experience and respect within the society. Originally formed by the union of several smaller societies, the first “lodge” was founded in London in 1717, but at that time rumors of the Masons’ existence had already been circulating for at least a century. Most modern secret societies take their cue from the Freemasons by incorporating handshakes, code words, private rituals and complex chains of command.

Although the Illuminati originally branched off from, and broke away from, the Freemasons, they have since become a prime focus for conspiracy theorists, many of whom credit Illuminati agendas for every conceivable disaster, mystery, and economic downturn. In point of fact, there is no evidence that the Illuminati still exist, but that only seems to add to their mystique.

The Skull and Bones
Perhaps the least secret of all secret societies, the Skull and Bones Society at Yale University was founded by William H Russell in 1832. Originally called the Eulogian Club, the Skull and Bones boasts many prominent heads of state (including at least three presidents), captains of industry, and heads of covert agencies among its membership. The society meets twice a week for rituals that are purported to closely follow Masonic rites, but many claim the organization is really nothing more than a glorified college fraternity.

The Rosicrucians
Founded in the early fifteenth century by Christian Rosenkreutz, the Rosicrucians were purported to be using occult practices to bring about a global transformation. Two centuries later, the publication of three manifestos launched them into the popular consciousness. They are believed by discerning conspiracy theorists to have founded the Freemasons, the Illuminati, and the Invisible College, and to have been the guiding force behind every significant revolution in modern history.

In 1954, the world’s most influential movers and shakers met in a hotel to discuss and plan the coming year’s global agenda. They have continued to meet every year, but the content of their talks has remained a zealously guarded secret. They are not technically a secret society, since their existence and membership are not in question, but many conspiracy theorists worry about the influence and reach of their annual meetings.

The Elders of Zion
In 1920, a newspaper owned by industrialist Henry Ford ran a series of articles reprinting a Russian document called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The document was quickly debunked as a hoax, but those articles were collected as a book, newly titled The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem. Adolph Hitler read the book, was influenced by it, and appropriated many of its ideas for himself. Anti-Semitic theorists around the world still believe that the Protocols were genuine and that there was once a Jewish conspiracy to achieve world domination.

The Knights Templar
Early in the twelfth century, nine knights took a vow to protect pilgrims traveling through the Holy Land. More knights joined the cause and the organization grew, gathering wealth, fame and power as their influence spread. Popular culture has cast them in the role of funders of many other secret societies and guardians of the most sacred Christian treasures. But the members of the Knights Templar were eventually tortured and executed, and the society was disbanded. There is no compelling evidence that they ever possessed the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail or the blood of Jesus Christ.

Sacred Disciplines

A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey into someone's own beliefs. Many religions attach spiritual importance to particular places: the place of birth or death of founders or saints, or to the place of their "calling" or spiritual awakening, or of their connection (visual or verbal) with the divine, to locations where miracles were performed or witnessed, or locations where a deity is said to live or be "housed", or any site that is seen to have special spiritual powers. Such sites may be commemorated with shrines or temples that devotees are encouraged to visit for their own spiritual benefit: to be healed or have questions answered or to achieve some other spiritual benefit. A person who makes such a journey is called a pilgrim. The Holy Land acts as a focal point for the pilgrimages of the Abrahamic religions of JudaismChristianity, and Islam. According to a Stockholm University study in 2011, these pilgrims visit the Holy Land to touch and see physical manifestations of their faith, confirm their beliefs in the holy context with collective excitation, and connect personally to the Holy Land.


Sacred Disciplines


A sacrament is a religious ceremony or rite. Sacraments are important holy events to members of that religion. Different religions recognize different sacraments. If you're a Protestant, you might attend a baptism, yet if you're Roman Catholic, you would include confirmation and matrimony among the various ceremonies you attend. Usually a holy person like a priest or minister needs to perform a sacrament.

What Are Sacraments?

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 'The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us' (#1131).

This is a complex definition, so let's break it down.

  • The word efficacious means 'effective.' This means that according to Catholic teachings, sacraments do what they say they do. Because of God's power, they simply work, Catholics believe.

  • A sign is an object, word, or gesture that points to something beyond itself. According to Catholic teaching, sacraments use all kinds of human objects, words, and gestures, but all of these point beyond themselves to something greater, to God and His grace.

  • Catholics define grace as God's free gift of His presence, His help, and His salvation.

Catholics believe, then, that sacraments point to and are channels of God's grace. They work as an effective means of communication between God and His people.

According to Catholic doctrine:

  • The sacraments are instituted by Christ. Christ instituted all seven sacraments as ways in which He could be present to His people even after His Ascension into Heaven.

  • The sacraments are also entrusted to the Church. Christ gave the sacraments to the Church so that the Church could dispense them to the faithful.

  • The sacraments dispense divine life. People who receive the sacraments actually share in the divine life of God. His presence enters into their souls, He helps them to live the Christian life, and He saves them so that they may reach eternal life.

According to the Catholic faith, the sacraments are a gift from God, given through the Church as an outpouring of His love. Through the sacraments, God justifies and sanctifies His people (i.e., He saves them and makes them holy), He meets His people where they are in order to draw them up to Him, He pours out His grace, He builds up the Church and He receives worship.

The Seven Sacraments

The Catholic Church recognizes seven sacraments:

  • Baptism

  • Eucharist

  • Confirmation

  • Reconciliation

  • Anointing of the sick

  • Marriage

  • Holy orders

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Sacred Disciplines


Roots of Shamanism

The word shamanism is borrowed from the Tungusic Evenki and has been first used some 500 years ago . The history of shamanism however has its roots even in the prehistoric society  . The oldest evidences of shamanic practice known to our scholars is found in a French cave Lascaux . The carbon dating showed that the cave painting in Lascaux are at least 30 000 years old.

What is a shaman exactly?

 Simply said , the shaman is the spiritual guide of the ancient mankind . The shaman is the link between the material world and the spiritual realm . He is able to communicate with the spirits and to cooperate with them for the sake of the community . The shamanic rituals are conducted in a state of trance triggered by different means and techniques. The shaman uses musical instruments , songs and dances in order to achieve  an altered state of consciousness . Entering a form of deep trance in which he is able to tap in the realm of the spirits .The first evidences of usage of psychedelic plant like mushrooms , herbs and etc. is in fact related with the shamanic rituals . The shamans were not only the healers of the soul , they were also adept herbalists and physicians. We can say that the shamans are the first healers known to man. They were powerful and influential persons , guides to their tribes . Their opinion was ofmajor importance, as they were in direct connection with the spirits . The shaman influence was equal to the tribal chief . Sometimes depending on the situation even the chief itself had to comply with him . The shamans were not only healers of the body and the soul . They played the role of soothsayers , they performed rituals to ensure hunting success and the prosperity of the village. The shamanism thrived in the age of the tribes and is preserved till today .

 In a lot of countries and cultures the ancient art of shamanism is still is a major part of the live and is even protected by the government . A bright example of the preservation of this cultural heritage is Peru . The Ayahuasca brew(the wine of the gods) used by the local shamans is considered sacred and protected by the government . 

As the author and explorer Graham Hancock says in his book Supernatural, “transformed beings” – half humans half animals can be found in prehistoric cave arts and are evidences for an altered state of consciousness  . Such painting are found in caves in south and north America , Europe , Asia and even Australia. The shamanism and the usage of recreational herbs is often considered a trigger for the art as the paintings in Lascaux for example .

The shamanic knowledge is ancient as the human itself and containing mysteries and secrets still to be discovered . It is a way to look at the world that surrounds us by a different perspective  To help us understand that what we are seeing is just a part of the picture . May be this is what we need these days . To stop thinking only as a material beings and to peep in our souls . To peep in a long forgotten place that surrounds us and was always part of our lives .


Sacred Disciplines

Yoga’s history has many places of obscurity and uncertainty due to its oral transmission of sacred texts and the secretive nature of its teachings. The early writings on yoga were transcribed on fragile palm leaves that were easily damaged, destroyed or lost. The development of yoga can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago, but some researchers think that yoga may be up to 10,000 years old. Yoga’s long rich history can be divided into four main periods of innovation, practice and development.

Pre-Classical Yoga
The beginnings of Yoga were developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago. The word yoga was first mentioned in the oldest sacred texts, the Rig Veda. The Vedas were a collection of texts containing songs, mantras and rituals to be used by Brahmans, the Vedic priests. Yoga was slowly refined and developed by the Brahmans and Rishis (mystic seers) who documented their practices and beliefs in the Upanishads, a huge work containing over 200 scriptures. The most renowned of the Yogic scriptures is the Bhagavad-Gîtâ, composed around 500 B.C.E. The Upanishads took the idea of ritual sacrifice from the Vedas and internalized it, teaching the sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge, action (karma yoga) and wisdom (jnana yoga).

Classical Yoga
In the pre-classical stage, yoga was a mishmash of various ideas, beliefs and techniques that often conflicted and contradicted each other. The Classical period is defined by Patanjali’s Yoga-Sûtras, the first systematic presentation of yoga. Written sometime in the second century, this text describes the path of Raja Yoga, often called "classical yoga". Patanjali organized the practice of yoga into an "eight limbed path" containing the steps and stages towards obtaining Samadhi or enlightenment. Patanjali is often considered the father of yoga and his Yoga-Sûtras still strongly influence most styles of modern yoga.

Post-Classical Yoga
A few centuries after Patanjali, yoga masters created a system of practices designed to rejuvenate the body and prolong life. They rejected the teachings of the ancient Vedas and embraced the physical body as the means to achieve enlightenment. They developed Tantra Yoga, with radical techniques to cleanse the body and mind to break the knots that bind us to our physical existence. This exploration of these physical-spiritual connections and body centered practices led to the creation of what we primarily think of yoga in the West:

Hatha Yoga.

Modern Period
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, yoga masters began to travel to the West, attracting attention and followers. This began at the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago, when Swami Vivekananda wowed the attendees with his lectures on yoga and the universality of the world’s religions. In the 1920s and 30s, Hatha Yoga was strongly promoted in India with the work of T. Krishnamacharya, Swami Sivananda and other yogis practicing Hatha Yoga. Krishnamacharya opened the first Hatha Yoga school in Mysore in 1924 and in 1936 Sivananda founded the Divine Life Society on the banks of the holy Ganges River. Krishnamacharya produced three students that would continue his legacy and increase the popularity of Hatha Yoga: B.K.S. Iyengar, T.K.V. Desikachar and Pattabhi Jois. Sivananda was a prolific author, writing over 200 books on yoga, and established nine ashrams and numerous yoga centers located around the world.

The importation of yoga to the West still continued at a trickle until Indra Devi opened her yoga studio in Hollywood in 1947. Since then, many more western and Indian teachers have become pioneers, popularizing hatha yoga and gaining millions of followers. Hatha Yoga now has many different schools or styles, all emphasizing the many different aspects of the practice.

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